Tigers return to playoffs

41-14 victory against Wranglers continues season

Senior runnig back Tracy Cooper reaches for the goal line to score a touchdown for Texas High in the third quarter against West Mesquite. The Tigers secured a play off birth with a 41-14 win.

Story by TJ Wall, Anna Grace Jones and Caden Rainwater

The Texas High Tigers and the West Mesquite Wranglers faced off Friday night in a game that would make or break the Tigers’ postseason hopes. The Tigers ended the game in triumph with a final score of 41-14, clinching a spot in the playoffs.

The first quarter had an ideal start for the Tigers with defensive lineman Clayton Smith notching a sack which then lead to an interception by defensive back Lajonte Wrightner. Then, on the Tigers’ first offensive drive, quarterback Rian Cellers threw a screen pass to running back Tracy Cooper for a 44-yard gain. On the very next play, Cooper ran in a 23-yard touchdown, making the score 7-0 with the Tigers ahead.

West Mesquite  got another chance on offense. However, the Tiger defense stood strong on third down with a tackle by defensive lineman Derrick Brown. The Tigers received the ball once more and took advantage of the opportunity by marching downfield and eventually completing a 25-yard touchdown pass from Cellers to wide receiver KB Webster, making the score 14-0 with the Tigers in the lead.

I feel so excited that we won — we won by a lot — and we made it to the playoffs

— Tracy Cooper

The Wranglers then looked to have a breakthrough with a long touchdown pass on a trick play. However, the play was called back and West Mesquite fumbled the ball with Brown making the recovery.

To start off the second quarter, the Tiger offense found success once more with a 37-yard touchdown run by Cooper, making the score 20-0 after the Tigers failed on a 2-point conversion.

The Tigers’ defense shut down the Wrangler offense once more and capitalized on their next offensive drive with a 43-yard touchdown pass from Cellers to Webster, increasing Texas High’s lead with a score of 27-0

West Mesquite’s offensive struggles didn’t stop there. The Wranglers fumbled the ball once more and it was recovered by Tigers’ defensive lineman Christon Surratt on the Wrangler 35-yard line. Soon after, Cooper found the end zone for his third touchdown of the night on an 11-yard touchdown run, making the score 34-0.

Unfortunately for the Wranglers, their offense continued to struggle with an offensive interception by Tigers’ defensive back Caleb Arnold. The Tigers then attempted to score one last time before the half, but ultimately ended up running out the clock to end the second quarter. 

The Tigers received the kickoff to start off the second half. The Tigers’ offense was forced to punt, but their defense came through yet again with an interception by defensive back Marquavious Fisher. Soon after, Cooper ran for 41 yards to the West Mesquite 9-yard line and ran in a 9-yard touchdown the play after, extending the lead 41-0.

Each team then had their turn at punting the ball until a big punt return by the Wranglers put them in position to score. A few plays later, Wranglers’ Ja’Kobe Walton caught a touchdown pass for their first score of the game, making the score 41-7.

West Mesquite then attempted an onside kick but failed, giving the ball to the Tigers at the Wrangler 45-yard line. However, the drive was spoiled after a lost fumble by Webster.

The Wranglers had a few small plays and eventually were faced with a fourth down which they successfully converted with a fake punt and a run by the punter. Shortly after, Fisher intercepted West Mesquite once more, but gave possession back to the Wranglers after fumbling the ball on the return. However, the Tigers defense stood their ground; defensive lineman Devaughnte Jack got a sack, eventually forcing West Mesquite to punt. 

Not making the playoffs last year and going from a 3-7 team to a 7-4 team just feels good . . .

— Eric Poe

The Tigers then had a mishap when Cooper lost a fumble, giving the ball to the Wranglers on the Texas High 11-yard line. Luckily for the Tigers, defensive back Jaylon Jones swooped in for the fifth interception of the night by the Texas High defense.

The Tigers were forced to punt once more, and for the sixth and final time of the night, Wrightner came through and picked off West Mesquite. In an attempt to run out the clock, the Tigers played it safe, ran the ball multiple times, and eventually punted. 

West Mesquite took advantage of the last-minute opportunity by scoring a touchdown on a pass with 1:24 left in the game. 

The Tigers then received the final possession, kneeled it and ran out the clock to win the game with a final score of 41-14, securing their spot in the playoffs. 

“Man this means everything,” offensive lineman Eric Poe said. “Not making the playoffs last year and going from a 3-7 team to a 7-4 team just feels good, especially with the same group of guys I’ve been grinding with all year. It feels unbelievable.”

Despite their decisive win, the Tigers were not sure on whether or not they made the playoffs due to another district game in progress.

“I feel so excited that we won — we won by a lot — and we made it to the playoffs,” Cooper said. “It’s just so amazing to play another game with these boys.”

All of the Tigers’ hard work and dedication week-in and week-out finally paid off in the end. 

“First of all, this all starts at practice,” Poe said. “I want to give a shoutout to all my coaches and all my players. We fought hard. We had it on our minds to come out early and go ahead and get the lead.”

This season has been a tale of trials and triumphs, but in the end the Tigers prevailed and clinched a playoff berth.  The Tigers will face a strong Lufkin team in the first round of the playoffs. 

“I feel like we got a chip on our shoulder,” Webster said. “There’s a lot of people who doubted us. We had some ups and downs, but we got it done. I feel like we’re going to come out and do our thing.”